Perhaps one of the greatest things about being human is having the ability to change your mind. Think about this for a second. Has there ever been an instance in your life in which you disliked somebody upon initial contact, and then later realized that the individual was actually a really great person? Maybe that individual even grew to become one of your closest friends. The point is first impressions can often times be very deceiving. So let’s apply this concept to music. While seemingly hated by a large portion of the metal community, I’ve always been able to find a number of metalcore bands that I absolutely adore (Unearth, Converge, etc…) With that said, there were also a few bands that never impressed me for one reason or another. Yet, having matured as a metal fan over the years has allowed me to revisit those bands that I initially dismissed with an open mind and a fresh set of ears. Here are three metalcore bands that I have changed my opinion towards and the albums of theirs that initiated my transition from apathy to fandom.
As Blood Runs Black – Ground Zero
I remember being at a party and striking up a conversation with a young woman about heavy metal music. I was immediately intrigued when she dropped names such as Cannibal Corpse and Lamb of God, but was disappointed with what happened next. She decided to show me an example of what she referred to as a “brutal breakdown” and proceeded to grab the iPod and play “In Dying Days” by As Blood Runs Black. I immediately thought to myself, “Oh boy… another scene kid that thinks Allegiance is a great album…”. I’ll admit that I’ve heard a song or two by ABRB that I thought were pretty neat (“my fears have become phobias”… oohh yes.. I like that! lol). But for the most part I could never get past their uninspired melodeath riffs, lack of interesting leads, and overwhelmingly simplistic/predictably placed breakdowns.
Enter the 2014 release “Ground Zero”, a real game changer. First and foremost, the songwriting improved tenfold on this album. Instead of just continuing to place breakdowns in the middle of Swedish death metal songs, the boys in ABRB took the time to craft some interesting song structures, technical guitar solos, and catchy melodies. A few of the choruses, such as the one in “Vision”, are almost on a Killswitch Engage level of catchiness (possibly due to the fact that the vocalist sounds A LOT like Jesse Leach). Furthermore, the crisp production on the album really allows Nick Stewart’s intricate bass stylings to shine through the mix, giving “Ground Zero” an almost old school technical death metal vibe at times. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the album’s token instrumental, “Rumple”, wasn’t just a 1 minute long slow tempo breakdown, but instead a jazzy affair consisting of slap bass and an emotional, somewhat neoclassical solo. Sure, As Blood Runs Black didn’t break any new ground on “Ground Zero” but they atleast managed to release a solid album with several catchy songs, which is far greater than anything they accomplished prior to this release.
According to recent press releases, the future career of As Blood Runs Black is uncertain. If they have in fact broken up then we can all take solace in the fact that they went out on a strong note. Although, if they do continue on as a band then hopefully they will be able to retain a consistent lineup, continue to progress their sound, and avoid crowdfunding controversies in the future. These guys definitely have potential.
As I Lay Dying – An Ocean Between Us
For the longest time I could not understand the appeal of As I Lay Dying. They kind of sounded like a watered down version of Shadows Fall but they had Christian lyrics. Was that what made them popular? When I first heard “Confined” back in high school I couldn’t wrap my head around their sound. The guitarwork was average, the lead vocalist sounded like a disgruntled barnyard animal, and the clean vocals sounded as though they were appropriated directly from any generic pop-punk band circa 2004. The experience of hearing this band for the first time motivated me to cast them aside, dismissing them as an unlistenable band. But a few years later a complete 180 occurred when a friend of mine lent me a copy of their 2007 release “An Ocean Between Us”. Instantly, As I Lay Dying became a band that was interesting to me.
Holy crap is this album great! Every member of As I Lay Dying managed to bring everything they had to the table on “An Ocean Between Us”. On previous releases Tim Lambesis seemed to be trapped in a monotonous mid-range scream, but on AILD’s fourth effort he amped up his game by proving that he can seamlessly transition between powerful low-end growls to high-pitched screams with ease. All of a sudden his vocals didn’t just become tolerable; they became some of the best in the genre! The guitarwork on this album, still to this day, astonishes the hell out of me. Not because it’s technically impressive for the metal genre as a whole, but because it sounds NOTHING AT ALL like the guitarists that played “The Darkest Nights” riffs. On this release Hipa and Sgrosso show a much greater affection for classic 80’s thrash metal than for the tired clichés of At the Gates’ inspired metalcore. The pop-punk cleans were still very abundant on this album, but when I began to accept that it was a more or less permanent part of AILD’s sound I grew to appreciate it and even love it at times.
These guys continued to progress with each subsequent album until the unexpected arrest of Lambesis abruptly halted the band’s career. Fortunately, the rest of the members recruited a new vocalist and formed the exceptional modern metal band known as Wovenwar. If you haven’t checked them out yet then stop reading this stupid article and check them out!
The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne
“Plagues is DWP best album ever!! There so much worse now and mikes losing his voice :( ” – FormerSceneKidWhoCannotAcceptChange
Unlike a large portion of the metal community, I never outright hated The Devil Wears Prada. They seemed like a decent group of musicians with untapped potential. In fact, I actually really wanted to like TDWP but it was just too difficult to find a good song or two within three full albums of generic metalcore. “Dear Love” showed that they had a healthy knowledge of extreme metal and hardcore, but their lack of musical composition skills ultimately resulted in 11 tracks of nonsensical garbage. “Plagues” showed that they were capable of releasing the same album twice but with slightly better production values and even more obnoxious synthesizers. “With Roots Above and Branches Below”, well … actually had a few cool songs. Unfortunately the horrendous production once again rendered this album practically unlistenable, and I eventually found myself dismissing the band for a few years.
So what was it about “Dead Throne” that was able to initiate my changed attitude toward this band? First and foremost, rather than continuing with Joey Sturgis, they acquired producer Adam Dutkiewicz for the recording of this album. It may seem like a trivial change but in reality it did wonders for the overall sound and scope of “Dead Throne”; this is exemplified by the more cohesive and focused songwriting, and by the fact that all of the instruments could be clearly heard through the mix. Second, the atmosphere of the album is much darker compared to previous albums. Instead of relying on synthesizers to create gimmicky electronicore beats, Baney primarily utilized his instruments to create a soundscape of atmosphere that, at times, truly sounded epic. Finally, “Dead Throne” was the first time that Hranica’s vocal approach actually sounded interesting to me. Prior to this release he used the very standard growl-to-shriek approach, which by 2010 had become a complete stereotype of the genre. With this new album he definitely took a more down to earth approach by also incorporating some raw hardcore shouting and spoken work bits into his reservoir of vocal techniques. The end result: a more genuine and emotional delivery to convey the band’s already thought-provoking lyrics. Keep it up boys!